NEXT GEN: The Importance of Family Time

Sep 03, 2014

Once school begins and students return to homework, extracurricular activities, and all-around chaotic schedules, spending quality time together as a family can become near impossible.

Meaningful family experiences strengthen familial bonds, lowers anxiety, and boosts children’s self-esteem. A strong statement is made to children when parents put aside their own needs and desires and put family first.

When time is not made for family, children and parents can become detached and irritable. Parents lose touch with the day-to-day happenings of their children and spouse, and children may feel like their parents view everything else as more important.

Kristin Gruner, Clyde mom to Haley, 11, and Noah, 9, has worked with her husband, Scott, to ensure that family time exists, despite their work schedules being busy and complicated.

“Haley enjoys dance, soccer, Girl Scouts and piano lessons. Noah enjoys basketball, soccer and Cub Scouts. Once you add in church, school, and time with friends, it is challenging to carve out a sliver of time to just be together, the four of us,” said Gruner. “With such a busy schedule, we soon became disconnected, frustrated and overwhelmed with the commitments we had made. So, we cut back on the kids' extracurricular activities and decided to be very intentional about designating one night per week as ‘Family Night’.”

Sometimes it’s hard for parents to decide what type of family activity would be fun for everyone involved. The website, childdevelopmentinfo.com, suggests the following activities:

  • Family meal time. This could become a family event from the selection of the menu, preparing the food and table, serving, eating together, and cleaning up. During the meal, children and adolescents can be encouraged to talk about what is interesting to them, and not necessarily the usual topics like school and work.
  • Homework. If parents can spend positive time with their children without conflict, this can be a good bonding experience where the school work itself is just a means to the end.
  • Sports. Whether it is playing catch in the yard, going to the gym, or watching the child play or perform, active and positive involvement is rewarding.
  • Hobbies such as drawing, crafts, collecting are great fodder for conversation.
  • Board games and cards allow for the family to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Extracurricular activities such as Girl/Boy Scouts, 4H, or the debate team, can be a great opportunity for bonding.
  • Religious activities.
  • Shopping with the family can make a simple chore an event.
  • Attend a concert or show together.
  • Go to the theater, watch television, or rent movies. By watching some shows your child enjoys, you will learn more about him/her and can use the topics brought up for more interesting discussions.
  • Outdoor activities such as hiking, walks, bicycling, picnics, or camping.
  • Attend school events together.
  • For younger children, get in the habit of reading to them. For the adolescent, ask what book they are reading and then read it yourself. In both cases, engage the child in a discussion about the book.

The Gruners’ ‘Family Night’ has become an integral part of their family.

“This is typically midweek and consists of a fun, easy dinner, a movie at home and a later bedtime for the kids. We have come to look forward to Family Night, it is an oasis in the midst of our busy week,” said Gruner.

While there are a number of benefits to extracurricular activities and community/church/school involvement, the key is to not overbook every person in the family so that there’s never a time where all members can be together at once.

Gruner said, “Scott and I believe that in order to teach our children well and instill in them our values of loving one another, serving our neighbors, valuing integrity, academics, and devotion to our beliefs, we simply need time well spent together. Our children need to see us living, laughing and loving, not just racing from one activity to another.”

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